Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The context of that childhood walk is lost forever to me, but I do remember we were approached by a beggar who asked us for spare change, and my dad said he didn't have any money, which was baffling because I knew for a fact that he had money. Children tend to keep tabs on their parents wallets, especially when spending time with the parent who was known to buy them things like hot dogs and bomb pops from the ice cream man.
As we continued walking away, I asked my dad why he had lied, and he explained that he never gave money to homeless people because they would just use it to drink, and this confused me even more because I used his money to buy soda to drink, too, and while I knew my dad preferred RC Cola, I knew he wasn't *completely* against the occasional root beer, and I REALLY didn't understand why he cared which soda someone else drank, but I guess I could understand him wanting to save all his money to buy me things instead of sharing with strangers in downtown LA.
Eventually he explained that the man was homeless (and what that meant because it's baffling to a spoiled white kid) and he clarified that by "drink" he meant "drink alcohol" (which I already understood because my mother drank alcohol and her daddy died from drinking alcohol so I knew alcohol was a bad thing) and that homeless people generally begged for money so that they could buy alcohol to drink instead of beef jerky or Troll dolls.
My dad would be horrified to know that I've given coins and dollar bills to countless homeless men and women since that day, as well as value meals from McDonalds, dog food from Taco Bell, and other snacky things over the years. Once, I gave a man my portable camping pillow. I've given them water bottles and soda. As I sit here thinking, I'm realizing with horror that I also gave one a pint of vodka once. Dear god, what was I thinking? I was probably drunk myself at the time, but holy shit - what was I thinking?
I'm a sheltered idiot, that's what I'm thinking now - I've been largely oblivious to poverty and homelessness until recently (broke and living three people to a room are what the homeless consider "cute"), and I'm starting to realize just how naive I've been.
While many people suffer from crippling mental diseases, nearly ALL of the men and women who live without the protection of a dwelling do so because they are driven there by addiction to alcohol or drugs, and rather than working or begging for money to turn their lives around, their only reason for living is to feed their addiction.
Now that I'm recovering from alcoholism, I've had the honor of meeting some of these people. They are countless. The lucky ones are in hospitals like the one where I was held until I was no longer a threat to myself in January. Some are in rehabilitation centers, although it's very unusual because they don't have the means to pay for treatment or help, even the few who consciously want the help. A hell of a lot of them are in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, men and women who bounce from couch to couch, park bench to kiddie slide, the back seats of cars, the shrubbery down the block from the Alano club I attend.
Their stories vary greatly in the details, but if you zoom out to the bigger picture, they are the same as each other and, startling as it was to discover, the same as me. I am so fucking thankful that I didn't end up living on the street, giving blow jobs in exchange for money (if I was lucky) and receiving broken cheek bones (if I was not), because I can guarantee you that I was headed in that direction only 55 days ago.
Those stories are forever a part of my story now.
I still have so much to learn, as was evidenced by my baffling stupidity yesterday - I was asked by a homeless woman if I could spare any money, and instinctively I handed her two dollars. She smirked at me. No shit, an actual smirk. Then she entered the convenience store with the money, and as I drove out of the parking lot, she emerged with a pint in her hands (actually, it was already in her mouth), and I spent the rest of the day wanting to cry and trying to figure out if there was a way to punch myself in the face, because I just gave booze to an alcoholic. Epic stupidity.
What's done is done, and if I see her again I'll be handing her something less stupid. But seriously, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.
This morning, I saw another homeless woman hanging out by the gas station when I went in to pay. This time I just bought an extra orange juice and handed it to her on my way out. Instead of smirking, she smiled and said thank you.
My god, I hope I didn't just hand her a mixer for her vodka.
It's really early in the morning and I can't sleep right now because apparently I used up all my sleeping when I dozed off during American Hustle earlier. I know it won a bunch off awards and stuff, but can you really expect me to enjoy a movie in which Christian Bale's hair keeps trying to fly away, but his beer gut is stuck to the ceiling tile? Why can't Target photoshop the hell out of that mess?
Anyway, I'm no stranger to insomnia - usually I'd just get up and pound a six pack and watch CNN, but my sponsor says I'm not really supposed to drink myself to sleep anymore, and I haven't gotten a chance to install cable here yet, plus we broke the TV during the move. I'd watch something on my phone, but we also don't have wifi yet, and I haven't learned how to handle the whole BUFFERING! shit without slamming another six pack, so what I'm saying is that sobriety has ruined my ability to consume both alcohol and the internet.
On the up side, I found a copy of Let's Pretend This Never Happened today in a thrift store. I've read it before, but then I had to return it to the library, so I never got a chance to mark it with my scent or mail it to the author for an autograph. I may have licked her face in New York City, but that doesn't mean she can't sign her book for me in Texas. Not because I collect books that were signed in Texas, but because that is where she lives. Unless she has moved since I was able to read her blog without the page taking so long to load that I gave up and took a selfie.
Something tells me that I'm starting to not make sense even more than usual and I should wrap this up, so I'm going to let someone else not make sense, which is to say I'm going to read the book again, and probably lick all the passages I'd just highlight in a normal book.
Texas-style crazy is contagious after midnight.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
A few (awesome!) things have shuffled around in the past couple of weeks, and I want to tell you ALL about them so you can groan and roll your eyes, but they're sort of chronological occurrences which need to be explained in the matching time/sequence order, and I'm presently without WiFi access which is making it really hard to blog and REALLY hard to download
No seriously, it won't even let me get out of it's fluffy embrace until I'm brushed its hair.
I'm spending more time in LA County now (vs. Orange County previously) and my GOD - they are not similar at all. North OC was all, "We'll feed you Fu until you explode while wearing gloves and wearing sensible sneakers," and then you drive a few minutes south, and then it's all, "Que pasa way? I'm going to wash your car for $3 and if you say no, I'm going to do it anyway."
LA is all, "I'll suck your dick for a bottle of schnapps or anything that can be injected intravenously. No? Here, let me point a gun at your THE SIDEWAYS WAY because I ain't foolin," but when I drive a mile west, I'm at the beach and everyone is bobbing around on the waves by their giant breasts and people are running up and down stairs (presumably for exercise) and there's a personal trainer at the bottom shouting stuff about cellulite and being ready for the Red Carpet.
Previously, I had neighbors to talked to themselves, watered the lawn 18 times a day (but only for 45 seconds each time) and grew fruit trees.
Now I've got screaming neighbors who belong on Jerry Springer and a giant South African woman berating me for *existing* while holding a tiny bottle of vegetable oil in her hands, and in LA the number of homeless souls is either much, much higher, or the OC bums were better at camouflage.
I've also visited some new A.A. clubs, and the members are likewise different from their "spoiled" (love you guys!) southern counterparts. I think I saw my first Woman Strung Out On Heroin incident, and I know I met my first hermaphrodite.
It's safe to say that not only is LA County more "my cup of tea," - you know, as far as feeling at home among my kind - but it also promises to provide more writing material than I had before.
OH! And if anyone has recommendations for a good go-to beverage for this sober alcoholic, I'd be much obliged. I'm hooked on coffee, but it's kind of dehydrating me. Fruit juices are too filling, I'm getting really sick of pop, and water isn't *zazzy* enough to cut the mustard. Plus, I'm trying to cut out some of the sugar that's been sneaking in lately. Sun tea? Purified urine?
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I met with Madame Helene today to check in and study Step 3. Funny, I'm totally willing to surrender my life and self-will over into the hands of a Deity-like creature, the existence of which I completely denied existed until just about 5 weeks ago. Acting on that willingness will be my challenge because it flies in the face of everything I've believed for so many years. Contrary action, they call it. Acting on faith. Should be an adventure.
During our conversation, Madame repeated something: We stopped growing up on the day we began our lethal dance with addiction. Our maturity was stunted by booze. Our emotional sobriety halted entirely.
This means I'm 17 years old. That can't be right. My ego wants to punch that idea in the vagina, because I like to boast that I'm a 60 year old in a (fill in the blank) year old's body. I'm older and wiser than my years. I fucking DRIP wisdom. It's squirting out of my pores, can't you feel it spraying you?
I can't run my own life, but here - let me tell you how you should run yours. I'm really good at it.
But wait, I'm here to learn, right? So let me pause for a moment. Let me consider the words of my sponsor.
I remember my first drink - it was given to me by Scott - and shortly after was my first "bad drunk" episode. He had a couple of friends over to his parents' house, and I believe a couple of my friends showed up as well, though I can't remember clearly.
I was standing in the garage and I was drinking a low ball full - FULL - of liquor. It may have been brandy. I was drunk, and the glass slipped from my hand and exploded on the concrete floor below. I remember slowly looking down at the shards of glass, and my next coherent memory was of being lifted from the garage floor by a few unrecognizable arms. I had collapsed face-first into the mess of broken glass and alcohol, completely unconscious for a few moments.
I was 17 years old then, and rather than recognize a sign of impending trouble, I chose to take that next drink, and the next. I stopped growing, and settled into a holding pattern of self-imposed hell.
Tonight at my second chip meeting, the shares seemed to be about several people's realization that they suffered from Peter Pan Syndrome, which is a metaphoric was of saying the same thing Madame Helene told me. When they began drinking, they stopped maturing.
Sure, they advanced their careers, or they got married, or they bought a house, or they graduated college. However, their selfishness and ego remained unchecked, the same riotous desires from their youth ruled their adult lives. They lived to please themselves, they stole and lied and manipulated others, just as they had done as teenagers when skirting their curfew or cheating on a biology test or stealing their best friend's girlfriend away.
At the age of 25, 30, 55, they continued to go to any lengths to drink/use/self-gratify, just as they had at the age of their first drink. Their stories confirmed my sponsor's words.
Still, I balked at the idea. I am different, CAN'T YOU SEE THAT?
Why am I different? I don't know, I just am.
Here - here's an example of how I'm not Peter Pan-y.
I've been a care-giver for most of my life. As a child, it was imposed upon me in absence of a stable parental figure. Later in my relationships with men, I voluntarily assumed the role of mother-figure because I'm selfless like that. Need your laundry folded? Don't worry, love, I'll take care of it. Just like I'll manage the finances and remind you to change the oil in your vehicle and chauffeur you around like a child. Let me iron your shirts and clean up your messes and prepare your taxes. LET ME TAKE CARE OF YOU. Because it's what I do.
But wait, at the same time I'm going to resent the fuck out of you for letting me take care of you. You're a grown man, why are you calling me when you can't find your socks? I'm sure it's no fault of my own. I'll tell you where to find your socks because I'm selfless like that. Then I'll hate you for it.
And holy shit, I just realized I really am 17 years old. I'll do anything to make you love me - I'll degrade myself and neglect myself and embarrass myself and inconvenience myself because I don't feel like I'm good enough for you. I'll play this little game and lay the trap, allow you to ease into dependence upon me, and then I'll start to play the victim.
Poor little put-upon Catherine! Do you see how they take advantage of me? Here, let me cry so you can feel sorry for me. So I can feel sorry for myself. Then let me get angry about it and tell my friends how awful these men are.
Let me be a 17 year old. I don't want to grow up. I don't want to change because that means I'll have to be accountable for my role in the events of my life and the dynamics of my relationships with other people. I'll have to believe in my inherent self-worth, and treat other people like adults.
I will have to be accountable for myself instead of blaming others. That is a scary prospect.
More scary, though, is the idea of flying back to my little Never Never Land full of pain, fear and oblivion.
I guess it's time for this little mother to grow the fuck up.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
I had a perfectly understandable excuse - something inexplicable had kept Nigel and I on the phone with each other until five o'clock this morning. FIVE. OH. CLOCK. I don't even fucking like talking on the phone, and this fool kept me up until the middle of the next day. Funny though, I didn't notice the time pass.
I was incredibly groggy and reasoned that I could catch a noon meeting instead. Only, something was telling me to go to THIS meeting. It was a new one to me - a Q & A format - and I didn't know what exactly to expect, except I know that every time I go to an A.A. meeting I feel better than when I arrived.
It was street sweeping day, so I had to move my car out of the street anyway if I didn't want a parking ticket (I just paid off my Hollywood parking ticket yesterday and wasn't in the mood for another so soon), so I dragged my ass out of bed, said goodbye to Pablo (wait, have I even explained Pablo yet? He's the newest man in my life, more on that later) and I drove the few miles to the meeting.
I only recognized a couple of faces at this meeting - I love meeting new people there, and one of those faces bought me a coffee, so quickly I perked up and got into the spirit of things. I even wrote a question on the slips of paper they passed around in little baskets. They didn't get to my question, but it turns out that my Higher Power had me there for a different reason.
My day turned into a quick succession of coincidences, which I am learning to recognize as miracles - blessings which are completely beyond my control that appear to be happening nearly every day.
First, I met Sarah. I've been considering trying to make some real, outside-of-the-meetings female friends, and I learned that this woman is considering the same thing. We exchanged numbers and already have plans to meet up again. She invited me to another completely different kind of meeting tonight, and I think I may just attend.
Second, one man I've met before invited me to a Step class (not the jazzercise kind) at a place called the Roque Center, which is a detox/sober living home where many of my new A.A. family members are alumni or current residents and volunteers. I'm starting to consider the fourth and fifth steps I'll soon be taking, and what do you know? They're going over those steps in the class tonight. I said I'd consider attending.
A man from my later chip meetings on Wednesday was missing yesterday, and apparently he's moved out of the sober house where the meeting is held. I wasn't expecting him to be gone, so of course I wondered how he is doing and if I would see him again, and I said a little prayer for him. Then this morning, I remembered that this missing man TEACHES THOSE STEP CLASSES at the Roque Center. I guess I'll be seeing him again after all.
After the Q & A meeting ended this morning, I looked down at my phone and found a text from someone I love very much - she had written to tell me something wonderful and humbling and kind of profound, and I was immediately in a puddle of happy tears. I won't go into the details here because they don't matter, except that what she told me was an answered prayer I didn't know I'd been asking for.
On the drive home, I remembered that I needed to stop by the hospital records department to sign a release form to kick start the maddeningly slow insurance process from my stay in January. Again, my tired mind nearly sent me back to bed, but I decided just to get it over with before my willingness disappeared. I didn't want to deal with it tomorrow. I made the short drive and completed my business.
Just as I was walking back to my car, I ran into someone I recognized: a social worker from the behavioral health wing where I spent my involuntary stay after trying to commit suicide.
And not just any of the social workers, she was the one who had helped me decide I wanted to live. I don't know what she said or did that made the difference in my mindset. I don't even remember her name (I was on and off a lot of medication while I was there), but I know that something in her manner of speaking and listening during our group meetings - some question she asked me during our interviews - some small, lost gesture had fished my mind out of hell and hung it out to dry.
I got to stop her and tell her about my sobriety. I got to tell her that one of my pieces of writing is being published - legitimately - in April. I got to show her that I was still alive, and she got to see in my face that I was glad to be. I told her I would never forget her.
If I hadn't stopped to pee in the hospital lobby. If I hadn't gone to the hospital directly from that meeting I almost didn't get out of bed for. If I was still running my own life. If I didn't have this tiny new little faith.
I wouldn't be so blown away.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
First, an update - I reached the 30 day milestone of sobriety last Friday and have received multiple chips, key chains and congratulations. Going for a month without drinking may not seem like much, but to anyone who shares my disease, you'll agree it's a fucking miracle to make it this far. A month ago, I couldn't even fathom surviving 30 days without a drink, not even one day at a time.
Today, I can't fathom drinking again.
That's not literally true, of course I can imagine what it might be like to take another drink, but now I really don't want to. This new life is so far beyond what I had before in my old life...I liken it to climbing a small mountain, with some significant struggle with my ascent. Now that I've reached this peak - however modest in the grand scale of the total mountain range - I've seen the view from up here, and it's beyond majestic. The colors in the sky are brighter than any I've known. The panorama is full of possibilities never before imagined. I have a lot of climbing left to do, but there is no way in hell I'm going to tumble back down the path I've already climbed, back into the darkness where I've spent so many years, hopeless and emotionally leveled to the point of despair.
I like it up here where there's a faint breeze and the promise of more to come.
In the past month, I've had no fewer than three people tell me I look like a woman in my early 20s. That's not something I've heard in a very long time, and I can only assume that my alcohol consumption was aging me. Quickly.
I posted a photo of myself on Facebook (SELFIE!! lolz) and Veronica, who has known me my entire life, remarked that she'd never seen that look on my face before. I can say that the look on my face was happiness, and I responded that I've never FELT this look before.
I have never felt happiness like this in my entire adult life. I'm not giving that back, and I'll go to any lengths to keep it.
Tonight at my second chip meeting, there were a couple of newcomers and several new faces. Newcomers are the lifeblood of Alcoholics Anonymous and are always the most important people in the room, so I began praying immediately that they see or hear something in the meeting that would be a blessing to them in their own recoveries.
One of the chip takers shared his story, and it broke my heart. He is currently wrestling with a three-month binge on heroin, and although he's previously enjoyed more than three years of sobriety, he is now completely broken and completely hopeless. Nothing is working this time, not detox or A.A. He's desperate and frantic. It was clear on his face and in his body language, and his words wrenched at my soul.
I know I'm helpless to help him, but you can bet your ass that I prayed the entire meeting for his Higher Power to intervene somehow. I know he can get sober, I just don't have the answers to give him. There is literally nothing I can do, and it's such a humbling, terrifying truth.
So if you're of the praying type, please send one out for that man. Maybe that's what we can do to help.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
When I got home tonight, I realized that I was famished. At 10:30 at night. Which is weird for me because I don't eat all that much to begin with, and usually I have at least some little snacky things laying around my room if I get hungry.
All I have in the little red basket of snacks which sit on my closet shelf (renting a room is so quaint, don't you think?) are the crumbs in the bottom of a beef jerky package and some really stale generic saltines.
I decided to go grab some fast food. At the last moment, I pulled into Subway instead, figuring mayo would do less damage to my ass than would a bacon cheeseburger and fries.
As I approached the door, a young woman walked by and asked (almost in hindsight) if I could spare anything for her to buy food with "for later." She had very long black hair and was carrying a stuffed animal. She was also very strung out on something.
I almost never carry cash, and I'm pretty broke from not having worked in over a month, but I told her I'd buy her a sandwich. Told her to come in and order whatever she wanted. She said that the employees of Subway didn't like her to go into the restaurant, just to order whatever.
So I got her the same sandwich that I ordered for myself (minus the 4lbs of jalapenos I demanded on my sub), with chips and a drink thrown in as an afterthought. The woman came into the store anyway and started mumbling something, then asked one of the employees for his name. She thanked me (I was still waiting to pay) and disappeared out the door.
The employee thanked me for my "good deed" and I deposited my food in my car before lighting a cigarette and going in search for my now missing sandwich woman.
I found her down the block in a Jack in the Box doorway, handed her the food, said "God bless you, girlfriend" (no idea why I threw in the "girlfriend," as it's not something I normally say to straight females), and I walked away.
I wish I could have given her more. I should have handed her my A.A. directory of meetings. Part of me thinks I should have given her my phone number, although that probably would have been a bad idea.
But this morning, like all mornings in the past 28 days, I asked my Higher Power to allow me to be a blessing to the alcoholic who still suffers, and tonight I got that chance. I don't know if that young woman is an alcoholic, but I believe she needed something that I had.
And for that, I can go to sleep a grateful alcoholic.
And so I drink to live another day.
(Thanks to James Heiney for the hydrant flush, yet again).